Bethlehem (300), Etzion DCL
6:30 – I met A. our acquaintance only at the checkpoint exit. He says that in the morning the soldiers "did not work properly", so it took longer than usual to pass, but now it’s better. Inside, in addition to the 4 windows operating, a soldier is letting people pass through window 5 outside, without checking the computer, so that the passage is much faster. Within a few minutes the pressure decreased and this window was closed. Later, when the hall was full again, the soldier let people in through the gate between windows 6 and 7, till the pressure ceased. Overall it was calm, even when full.
Just after 7 it was completely empty, and there was no pressure. We left early and got to the DCO before opening.
People surround us while we are still in the car. They ask questions, present their documents and want to know if it's enough. Once they opened we went inside, when the soldiers said that only those waiting for permits can enter. We spoke with Adva, the officer, among other things about the merchants whose permits were taken. Early July they confiscated hundreds of Bethlehem area merchants’ permits, claiming they are not really merchants. Adva says it is policy dictated by policy makers, and to her knowledge, not only in the Bethlehem area. They took permits from those they think are not really merchants, because according to her they fill the quota and hence prevent “real merchants” from getting permits. We expressed to her our surprise wondering if Ramadan is the right time to confiscate the permits without notice. Is it not better to increase the quota during the holiday, and give people a notice to take care of the required documents before they unexpectedly confiscate their permits? We asked her to convey this to the policy makers.
Most of those waiting came to issue magnetic cards. After they turned on the machine that issues numbers, and then again restarted with the remote, the machine finally cooperated. A man organizes the queue according to a list prepared when they waited outside. Today he initiated an innovation: to avoid pressure around the machine, he lets in 5 people at a time, and after they take numbers and sit down he calls the next 5 on the list. He tells us he is from Al-Khader. Last week he came, waited and waited and was not let in. (Every settlement/village has one day a week when its residents can issue magnetic cards). Today he rose up early and arrived at 3 am to wait next to the closed door and ensure that today he would come out with the anticipated magnetic card.
We left at 9 or so.